A 16-foot Burmese python shot to death on Oct. 28 in the Florida Everglades is one of the largest reptiles of that species ever found in Florida or the U.S.
The giant snake that winds around its prey and crushes small animals to death is not native to Florida, however the Everglades provides the perfect tropical environment for the reptiles to thrive in, as well as other species of exotic snakes, huge lizards and reptiles.
Discovery of the monster-sized snake on a tree island was not the only big news. It had recently killed and eaten a 76-pound deer, a doe, which meant the cold-blooded, reptile did not have to crush and swallow antlers. The snake had just swallowed the deer which is said to be the largest intact animal ever swallowed by a Burmese Python in Florida.
“It shows you they can eat huge things,” python expert Skip Snow told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Burmese pythons and other exotic reptiles, mostly pets released by irresponsible owners, are fast becoming the top predators in the Everglades, according to experts. Considering Florida’s toothy alligators and crocodiles are the largest reptiles in the U.S., sometimes weighing about as much as a Volkswagen and typically having 80 teeth, taking top predator honors in Florida’s main swamp is no small accomplishment.
Giant Burmese pythons were discovered slithering through the region in alarming numbers during the mid 1990s and the problem has grown worse over time. Pythons have the ability to unhinge their jaws in order to swallow and chew their prey however the snakes usually kill by squeezing the life from their prey.
Pythons are a problem north of the Everglades too. In the central Florida community of Royal, near Ocala Florida, 2-year-old Shaianna Hare was strangled to death by her family's over 8-foot-long pet Burmese python in 2009. The snake escaped from an aquarium covered by cloth and slithered into the toddler’s bedroom during the night suffocating her and biting her repeatedly. The child’s mother and her boyfriend were sentenced to 12 years in prison for Third Degree Murder, Manslaughter and Child Neglect for allowing the snake to get at the child.